Cheese production in Lika is a long rooted tradition. In the mountain valleys of Velebit, cheese was produced according to centuries preserved knowledge and with modern equipment. Sheep, cow and goat milk from grassy pastures is foundation of various cheese and other dairy products for which Lika is famous for.
Since time immemorial in this region, milk was eaten fresh (varenika) or sour (kiselina), often with bread soaked in it. Out of it came butter, cream, and cheese. The old way for making these products called for special kitchen utilities such as ručaka (a wooden bowl used to store the milk after milking animals) and stap (used for making butter).
The famous Lika Škripavac is signature cheese of Lika. It is a semi-hard cow cheese made from skimmed milk. The name of this excellent cheese comes from the unique characteristic; namely, when the cheese is young it scratches when eaten. Historical records show it is a characteristically shepherd’s product, used mostly by people from Lika in the Velebit region. Today few households know how to make this cheese in its original way, and there are efforts now to protect this knowledge.
Apart from being ever-present appetizer on Lika table, škripavac is also used to prepare traditional cake presnac, which is a tradition that connects Lika highlands with Croatian Littoral. If you boil cornmeal in milk and butter you get cicvara, also a lovely meal. And for those who indeed love dairy products, Lika Basa is a must. Sour milk and butter are added to boiled milk and once hardened placed in clean gauze and strained.
In Krasno, a gorgeous village in the mountains of Velebit, cheese making tradition is especially long and rich. The family Tomaić started working in the cheese production in 1960ies, and in the 1990ies they decided to form their own cheese manufactory. Mr. Vladimir Tomaić met us in his new building in Otočac, where the production moved in 2003. His tasting room is large, with old dairy utensils, but the most visible are medals and certificates from numerous fairs and awards for the natural products. The family is now active in milk buyoff, milk processing, production of cheese and other dairy products, retail and wholesale trade.
And while Mr. Tomaić was showing us the Runolist awards, the aroma of cheese filled the air. The cheese plate was just an introduction to the visit in the storage itself. Here the cheese matures in the natural way. The milk comes exclusively from the local cooperates, from small farms, making the cheese truly Gacka product. This milk is of top quality, as cows and sheep enjoy the green pastures of the Gacka Valley and Velebit slopes.
The leader of the Dairy “Runolist” production program is Krasnarski Cheese. This is the cheese which insured the recognisability on the Croatian market. Hard cow cheese is made according to the traditional recipe of milk from the surrounding pasture lands, which matures for minimum six months. It is best served at room temperature so you can taste the abundance of its favours. Runolist Cheese is a semi-hard cheese made of cow cheese. It is produced in the same manner as Krasnarski cheese, but matures for about 60 days.
Velebitski Cheese is a hard sheep cheese whose aroma unites the smells of Velebit pasture lands in summer months. It develops its full aroma in the maturation process. It is appropriate as a self-sufficient meal or as addition to dishes. Škripavac, soft cheese of feta type, the traditional product of Lika made of cow milk, is served as part of the cold buffet in combination with potatoes from Lika and smoked and cured meats.
Fresh cow cheese is specific for being made of un-skimmed milk, with no addition of cream being necessary. It is exceptional for preparing pastry and other dishes, but also as self-sufficient meal. Cow milk skuta is an albumin cheese produced from mild whey at cheese production. It has high nutritional value and is ever more valued among consumers; it has its counterpart in sheep milk skuta.
The family Tomaić preserved their shop in Krasno too, while you may buy their products in Otočac, Rijeka, and many other shops throughout Croatia.
Tomaić-commerce d.o.o. Otočac Sirana Runolist , Špilnički odvojak 5, 53220 Otočac, HR Tel +385 53 771 177